Image by Rezwan

Overcrowded passenger ferry capsized in the Padma River in Munshiganj, Bangladesh

The World Cup Goal-E Project

This street in Bangladesh has a colorful world cup celebration

New Chum Hill Ruins

Remnants of Kiandra gold mine at New Chum Hill, #nsw #australia

October 27, 2010

CNG losing its potential as fuel alternative in Bangladesh

Compressed natural gas (CNG)as a vehicle fuels was first introduced to Bangladesh in 1982 through a World Bank pilot project. In 1999, four private companies obtained permission to set up about 5 stations each (source).

This "greener" fuel alternative has sunken the transport cost for many vehicle owners. The high price of conversion of Engine (Tk. 56000 eq. US$800) did not deter many people from using this as fuel cost becomes 5 to 10 times cheap when using CNG. Moreover, it provides clean air by reducing harmful emission.

The government vehicles are gradually being converted to CNG. Many public transports including buses are fueled by CNG and autorickshaws in Dhaka are compulsorily powered by CNG. When Bangladesh government banned the Two-stroke autorickshaw engines in 2003, there was a 30 to 40 percent drop in particulate pollution in Dhaka.

Natural gas is supposed to be Bangladesh’s only significant source of energy. So the CNG sector had a promising future. But suddenly everything seems to be stalled. The CNG sector is running into crisis according to Energy expert Kh.A.Saleque:
* There are allegations that without making proper feasibility study authorities through corrupt practice accelerated permissions for setting up CNG filling stations in already saturated areas.

* The massive growth of CNG re-filling stations in already congested gas distribution networks have created additional burden on the main gas distribution net work.

* The Government served double blow to CNG by al most doubling feed gas price to CNG and increasing CNG price significantly in one step.

In year 2002, there were only five CNG filling stations in Dhaka. By 2005 it grew to 75 and now approximately 500 stations are operating. CNG refueling stations consume only 5 per cent of the gas production. Approximately 300,000 of the 1 million vehicles on the road are now CNG-fueled. A typical CNG station is equipped with a double hose dispenser with two double nozzles and would serve between 300–500 cars in 16 hours station access time. So there is already a demand of 500 more stations to provide smooth CNG refueling service.

The government has recently banned CNG stations from selling CNG from 3PM to 9PM. This has created long queues in the filling stations forcing many vehicle users to opt for gasoline consumption instead.

I share with you one bitter experience of mine which I faced last Saturday. The CNG autorickshaws in Dhaka was a good transport option back in 2004-2005 when it ran on meter and there was a law that they should go everywhere where the passenger wants to go. But now it is completely a mess. They don't run on meters, will not go everywhere and the passengers has to agree to exorbitant price when they have no alternative. I started from Paribagh towards Gulshan 2. The CNG driver requested me to allow him to refuel his CNG tank as 3PM was approaching and there will be no refueling for next 6 hours. But at the end it cost me 40 minutes (equivalent to journey time) as he had to be in a long queue in a CNG station. Who is responsible for the loss of opportunity cost of him and mine?

The Owners of CNG refueling stations is protesting the Petrobangla move to raise the CNG price by sending a proposal to the Bangladesh Energy Regulatory Commission (BERC). The price rise will be from Tk 16.53 (25 cents) to Tk 25 (36 cents).They will go on strike from the 1st of November as the banners and posters say. The common citizen will suffer and more and more people will switch back to gasoline which will be a sad ending to a happy story.

October 25, 2010

Land Grab And Protests In Bangladesh

The population of Bangladesh is increasing and there is a growing demand of land mass for housing. As it is already considered a densely populated country, finding empty lands for development of housing complexes can be a tough ask. Political and business powerhouses grab government and private lands and the security forces or the law can barely do anything to protect the rights of general people.

Shahjahan Siraj describes in a podcast report at Panos London how land owners are turning beggers because of land disputes:

Disputes over land are the biggest single cause of court cases in Bangladesh. It’s usually the rich and powerful who win.

Recently in the Rupganj Upazilla near capital Dhaka Bangladeshis saw another kind of land grab. Protests of land-owners turned deadly as more than 50 people were injured and one person died (three more reported missing) from the clashes with the security forces. At least 10000 people were demanding cancellation of the government decision to acquire about 5,000 bighas (appx. 1653 acres) of land in Rupganj for an army housing project. The police has brought charges of vandalism against approx. 4000 people as they torched an army camp.

According to media reports [bn] the army had established 4 camps in Rupganj Upazilla 6 months ago and were carrying out the land acquiring tasks from there. Locals said that the personnel from these camps were forcing them to sell off their land very cheaply.

The Inter Services Public Relations (ISPR) in a press release alleged that a vested group has instigated landowners and local people through spreading 'hostile' and 'fearful' rumors against army and the army housing project in the area. They denied about the existence of army camp naming them temporary offices manned by army officials to facilitate the project.

Some bloggers are reacting with anger over this incident. Blogger Dinmojur at Somewherein Blog writes in details about the army housing project (AHS) and how the army approached with the difficult task of acquiring so much land (1653 acres) for the project:

জমি কেনা বেচার সামান্য অভিজ্ঞতা যার আছে, তারা সহজেই বুঝবেন, একসাথে এত জমি কখনই সেচ্ছায় মানুষের কাছ থেইকা কিনা যায়না। ভিটাবাড়ি, পারিবারিক কবরস্থান এবং টিকে থাকার একমাত্র অবলম্বন কৃষিজমিটুকু কে-ই বা স্বেচ্ছায় বেচতে চায়! [..]

ফলে আর্মি তেরছা রাস্তা ধরলো। [..] ইউনিফর্ম এর জোর দেখায়া তারা ২৪ টি মৌজায় সব ধরণের জমি কেনা বেচা বন্ধ কইরা দিল। তাগো সাফ কথা, জমি যদি কেউ বেচতে চায় তাইলে সেনাবাহিনীর কাছে বেচতে হইব। আর জোর জবরদস্তিই যখন করতেই হইল তখন আবার ন্যায্য দাম কিসের?

Those who have the faintest idea of buying and selling land knows one can never purchase all that land together without force. Not everyone will want to sell their ancestral house, family graveyard, and their means of livelihood. [..]

So the army took the hard path. [..] Showing their power of uniform they stopped all buying-selling of land in 24 Moujas. They had only one demand - if anybody wants to sell land then they will have to hand it over to the army. And as they had to assert power why buy at a fair price?

The blogger posts evidence that the formal approval for the project from the land authorities is still pending. But the AHS project has already received payment of installments from potential buyers - many army officers for this project. The blogger also points to the advancing business interests of Bangladesh army. A recent BBC documentary showed how Bangladesh army has become a big conglomerate.

However, blogger Osthir Prithibi has questioned the hyped criticism and negativity against the army and requested not to jump into conclusion without much information.

Blogger & journalist Maskwaith Ahsan at Somewherein Blog vents his frustration on the politics behind the incident and the blame game:

এখনো আমরা চালাক মানুষরা ভাবছি,আগুন লেগেছে রুপগঞ্জে। আমাদের কী। আগুন কতো দ্রুত আপনার চৌকাঠে আসতে পারে তাতো জানিনা আমরা। আমাদের বালিতে মুখ গুজে দেশপ্রেম বিলাসের নিষ্কর্মতায় আমরা নূরহোসেন, রিসিল, জামালদের লাশের অংক কষে যখন ব্রেকিং নিউজ দেখছি,

তখন যুদ্ধাপরাধীরা রুপগঞ্জের ঘটনাকে কীভাবে ঘোলা করে যুদ্ধাপরাধীদের বিচার পন্ড করা যায় তার রেসিপি তৈরী করছে।বিএনপি এখন ত্যানা পেচিয়ে আওয়ামী লীগকে অজনপ্রিয় করে তুলবে। কারণ বিএনপির শয়নে সপনে জাগরণে শুধু ক্ষমতায় যাওয়া। দেশের চেয়ে দল বড়। মানুষের চেয়ে জমি বড়।

We clever people still are contemplating - there is fire in Rupganj, so what! We don't know when this fire will spread in our houses. We stick our head in the sand in leisure and inaction and watch the breaking news counting..Nur Hussain, Richil, Jamal.. all these dead bodies...

Then the war criminals will try to exploit this incident to stop the trial against war criminals, BNP (opposition party) will try to shed some popularity of Awami League (ruling party). Because the only goal of BNP is to come to power again. The party is greater than the country. And of course the land is greater than the people.

Mustak Khasru at Somewhere In Blog writes [bn]:

ষোল কোটি চৌচল্লিশ লক্ষ মানুষ যে দেশে বসবাস করে সেই দেশে ভুমি অধিগ্রহনের জুজুটি আইন করে বন্ধ করে দিতে হবে। [..] কৃষি নির্ভর দেশের আবাদী জমির পরিমান জ্যামিতিক হারে কমছে তা এখনি বন্ধ করতে না পারলে সামনে মানুষ মানুষের মাংশ খেতেও দ্বিধা করবে না।

The law of acquiring land in the country of 166.4 million people should be repealed. The cultivable land in this agriculture based country is decreasing exponentially. If we can't stop it people will be hungry and turn carnivorous.

The protests of Rupganj perhaps has made Bangladeshis realize that the lower middle class has overcome the fear of army in this democratic country but the weary middle-class has to wake up.

First published in Global Voices Online.

October 24, 2010

Walkman (1979-2010): The End Of An Era

I remember, it was in 1985 when I first used one of these and it soon changed the way I listened to music. The mp3 players (and now my smartphone) have only emerged in the past decade. I had fun with it and interesting is that it is probably lying somewhere among the junks a boy produces to reminisce after decades.

Its sad to hear that Walkman will no longer be produced by Sony after selling 200 million of these cassette tape models. However, the company will still be manufacturing manufacturing CD and memory module based Walkmans.

The device was built in 1978 by audio-division engineer Nobutoshi Kihara for Sony co-chairman Akio Morita, who wanted to be able to listen to operas during his frequent trans-Pacific plane trips. (Metafilter)

Thank you Walkman, you were a trend setter.

Image courtesy: Crunchgear

October 18, 2010

Goodbye Jakarta

At last the day came after almost 5 years when I am finally going home to Dhaka, Bangladesh. It has been an exciting period of my life, living an expqt life in Europe and Southeast Asia, travelling to many countries, and following my homeland from faraway. My life will change too, I had already applied for a new job in Dhaka and am going to join shortly.

More details will follow. I am on the way to airport now. And for Jakarta,it was interesting living here.

October 10, 2010

At Duck King

Hainam Rice, Tofu Dish, BBQ Duck and Chicken Combo, Chinese Jasmine tea - a savory lunch at The Duck King Pondok Indah Mall 2, Jakarta, Indonesia.

October 06, 2010

Worldmap Of The Online Communities

Worldmap Of The Online Communities by XKCD (Click here for larger version - 4.2MB) CC BY-NC

October 05, 2010

Shahabuddin Ahmed: Painting Bangladesh With His Heart And Mind

One of the most renowned Bangladeshis painters in the world is Shahabuddin Ahmed. He was born in 1950 and studied at the Academy of Fine arts. In 1971 he joined the Liberation war for Bangladesh and fought for independence. Later Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman learnt about his painting skills and met him. He told him to go to Paris and learn painting like Picasso, Van Gogh et al. His life cherished desire was to become a Zainul Abedin, the master painter of Bangladesh, who was also his mentor. In October 1974 he went to Paris to study painting on a scholarship and has been sharing his time between France and Bangladesh ever-since. He comes to Bangladesh regularly to stay, paint and to exhibit. He lives with his wife Anna Shahabuddin and they have two daughters named Chitra Shithi and Charyapad Shahabuddin.

Shahabuddin's works are displayed in many galleries across the globe including the Olympic Museum in Lausanne, Switzerland and Bourg-en-Bresse Museum France. In 1992 he received the 50 Master painters of contemporary arts, Olympiad of the Arts, Barcelona, Spain. In Bangladesh he received the Independent Day Award (Shwadhinata Puroskar) in 2000.

Here is an introduction of his art work from The Arts Trust. Some excerpts:

Shahabuddin’s works reflect contemporary life and times. Its essence glorifies life’s struggle-he fought an actual battle for the liberation of Bangladesh-with victory in the end, transcending time and space. With great erudition and skill, he relies heavily on the power of motion as his mode of artistic expression. His endeavour to unravel the mysteries of the cosmos through the use of colour – most often monochromatic with splashes of bright unusual colours – canvas and brush has perfectly amalgamated life and art. [..]

What has made Shahabuddin, who has been greatly influenced by Francis Bacon and the European movement, to be one among the 50 best painters of the world? His baroque like figures turned towards space seeking light and energy, are a strange mixture of Western influence rooted to his place of origin. He emerges as an international painter with an unmistakable individuality.

Here is a review of his 27th solo exhibition which took place last year in Dhaka. You can view some of his paintings in The Arts Trust Website and in Bangla Gallery. Here are more of his paintings on auction.

I was watching an interview of him in a Bangladeshi TV channel and I was very inspired by his words. What I found disheartening that Shahabuddin Ahmed does not have any website of his own. I hope someday we will see his work and words reaching every corner of the world via his website/blog.

Image courtesy Bdnews24.com and other sites.